“I don’t care, I’m fine with whatever.”
“I usually just go with the flow.”
Some of us really struggle to figure out what we want in any given moment. There can be a lot of reasons for this, but the tendency to put others’ needs above our own (aka people-pleasing) is one.
If you’re super attuned to the needs of everyone around you, you’re probably not in the habit of paying attention to what YOU want, prefer, like, or need. Over time, it’s possible to convince yourself that you don’t have many needs or opinions at all. You start to believe that your satisfaction is 100% contingent on other people’s happiness.
This is a dangerous trap. We all have needs. We all have preferences. It’s really helpful to be aware of needs and desires because these help us take care of ourselves and cultivate passion. Ignoring needs and desires for too long can lead to pent-up resentment and anger, or, perhaps worse, feeling deadened or disconnected — unable to access curiosity and drive.
If you feel walled off from what you want and need, it’s possible to cultivate new habits to help you get reconnected:
When you find yourself going along with “whatever,” try asking yourself what you would choose to do if a particular decision were completely up to you.
This might come up when your family is choosing a place to eat or making weekend plans, or in the context of a professional/work decision. You probably face dozens of these “decision points” each day, small and large. Asking yourself what you’d choose if no one else were affected is the first step in developing an awareness of what lies underneath chronic people-pleasing. You don’t even have to speak up about what you want at first — this is an exercise in awareness.
Journaling is invaluable in uncovering all sorts of unattended feelings, ideas, wants and needs. One good prompt to start with is, “What would my ideal day look like?” Notice whether you want to be alone or with others, and what you would do if you could do ANYTHING YOU WANT. Pay attention to feelings of guilt that may come up when you start exploring how you like to spend your time without attaching this to what others need from you.
Trying something new and noticing what thoughts and feelings come up is one way of reopening the channel between your heart and your brain. Sometimes we are in such a rut with everything we do and how we relate to people in our lives, it’s hard to detect what we want and need. But in the context of trying a brand-new food, author, movie theater, etc. your reaction may be more noticeable to you. And the more you do this, the more you might see patterns. It’s like a series of mini science experiments.
Figuring out what you want is one thing…asserting yourself can be a whole other challenge. And it’s an essential skill, in part because letting go of people pleasing can be key to reducing stress and burnout. If you could use more inspiration around this, get information about my Battling Burnout group here>> stephaniedobbin.com/groups